An anonymous portrait in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, believed to show Christopher Marlowe.
|Born||baptised 26 February 1564
Canterbury, Kent, England
|Died||30 May 1593 (aged 29)
Deptford, Kent, England
|Language||Early Modern English|
|Alma mater||Corpus Christi College, Cambridge|
|Literary movement||English Renaissance theatre|
|Notable works||Hero and Leander; Edward the Second; The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus; Dido, Queen of Carthage|
Christopher Marlowe, also known as Kit Marlowe (baptised 26 February 1564 – 30 May 1593), was an English playwright, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. Marlowe was the foremost Elizabethan tragedian of his day. He greatly influenced William Shakespeare, who was born in the same year as Marlowe and who rose to become the pre-eminent Elizabethan playwright after Marlowe's mysterious early death. Marlowe's plays are known for the use of blank verse and their overreaching protagonists.
A warrant was issued for Marlowe's arrest on 18 May 1593. No reason was given for it, though it was thought to be connected to allegations of blasphemy—a manuscript believed to have been written by Marlowe was said to contain "vile heretical conceipts". On 20 May, he was brought to the court to attend upon the Privy Council for questioning. There is no record of their having met that day, however, and he was commanded to attend upon them each day thereafter until "licensed to the contrary". Ten days later, he was stabbed to death by Ingram Frizer. Whether the stabbing was connected to his arrest has never been resolved.
Marlowe was born in Canterbury to shoemaker John Marlowe and his wife Catherine. His date of birth is not known, but he was baptised on 26 February 1564, and is likely to have been born a few days before. Thus, he was just two months older than his contemporary William Shakespeare, who was baptised on 26 April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Marlowe attended The King's School in Canterbury (where a house is now named after him) and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he studied on a scholarship and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1584. In 1587, the university hesitated to award him his Master of Arts degree because of a rumour that he intended to go to the English college at Rheims, presumably to prepare for ordination as a Roman Catholic priest. However, his degree was awarded on schedule when the Privy Council intervened on his behalf, commending him for his "faithful dealing" and "good service" to the Queen. The nature of Marlowe's service was not specified by the Council, but its letter to the Cambridge authorities has provoked much speculation, notably the theory that Marlowe was operating as a secret agent working for Sir Francis Walsingham's intelligence service. No direct evidence supports this theory, although the Council's letter is evidence that Marlowe had served the government in some secret capacity.
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Of the dramas attributed to Marlowe, Dido, Queen of Carthage is believed to have been his first. It was performed by the Children of the Chapel, a company of boy actors, between 1587 and 1593. The play was first published in 1594; the title page attributes the play to Marlowe and Thomas Nashe.
Marlowe's first play performed on the regular stage in London, in 1587, was Tamburlaine the Great, about the conqueror Timur (Tamerlane), who rises from shepherd to warlord. It is among the first English plays in blank verse, and, with Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, generally is considered the beginning of the mature phase of the Elizabethan theatre. Tamburlaine was a success, and was followed with Tamburlaine the Great, Part II.
The two parts of Tamburlaine were published in 1590; all Marlowe's other works were published posthumously. The sequence of the writing of his other four plays is unknown; all deal with controversial themes.
- The Jew of Malta (first published as The Famous Tragedy of the Rich Jew of Malta), about the Jew Barabas' barbarous revenge against the city authorities, has a prologue delivered by a character representing Machiavelli. It was probably written in 1589 or 1590, and was first performed in 1592. It was a success, and remained popular for the next fifty years. The play was entered in the Stationers' Register on 17 May 1594, but the earliest surviving printed edition is from 1633.
- Edward the Second is an English history play about the deposition of King Edward II by his barons and the Queen, who resent the undue influence the king's favourites have in court and state affairs. The play was entered into the Stationers' Register on 6 July 1593, five weeks after Marlowe's death. The full title of the earliest extant edition, of 1594, is The troublesome reigne and lamentable death of Edward the second, King of England, with the tragicall fall of proud Mortimer.
- The Massacre at Paris is a short and luridly written work, the only surviving text of which was probably a reconstruction from memory of the original performance text, portraying the events of the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572, which English Protestants invoked as the blackest example of Catholic treachery. It features the silent "English Agent", whom subsequent tradition has identified with Marlowe himself and his connections to the secret service. The Massacre at Paris is considered his most dangerous play, as agitators in London seized on its theme to advocate the murders of refugees from the low countries and, indeed, it warns Elizabeth I of this possibility in its last scene. Its full title was The Massacre at Paris: With the Death of the Duke of Guise.
- Doctor Faustus (or The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus), based on the German Faustbuch, was the first dramatised version of the Faust legend of a scholar's dealing with the devil. While versions of "The Devil's Pact" can be traced back to the 4th century, Marlowe deviates significantly by having his hero unable to "burn his books" or repent to a merciful God in order to have his contract annulled at the end of the play. Marlowe's protagonist is instead carried off by demons, and in the 1616 quarto his mangled corpse is found by several scholars. Doctor Faustus is a textual problem for scholars as two versions of the play exist: the 1604 quarto, also known as the A text, and the 1616 quarto or B text. Both were published after Marlowe's death. Scholars have disagreed which text is more representative of Marlowe's original, and some editions are based on a combination of the two. The latest scholarly consensus (as of the late 20th century) holds the A text is more representative because it contains irregular character names and idiosyncratic spelling, which are believed to reflect a text based on the author's handwritten manuscript, or "foul papers." The B text, in comparison, was highly edited, censored because of shifting theater laws regarding religious words onstage, and contains several additional scenes which scholars believe to be the additions of other playwrights, particularly Samuel Rowley and William Bird (alias Borne).
Marlowe's plays were enormously successful, thanks in part, no doubt, to the imposing stage presence of Edward Alleyn. Alleyn was unusually tall for the time, and the haughty roles of Tamburlaine, Faustus, and Barabas were probably written especially for him. Marlowe's plays were the foundation of the repertoire of Alleyn's company, the Admiral's Men, throughout the 1590s.
Marlowe also wrote the poem Hero and Leander (published in 1598, and with a continuation by George Chapman the same year), the popular lyric The Passionate Shepherd to His Love, and translations of Ovid's Amores and the first book of Lucan's Pharsalia. In 1599, his translation of Ovid was banned and copies publicly burned as part of Archbishop Whitgift's crackdown on offensive material.
As with other writers of the period, little is known about Marlowe. What evidence there is can be found in legal records and other official documents. This has not stopped writers of both fiction and non-fiction from speculating about his activities and character. Marlowe has often been described as a spy, a brawler, and a heretic, as well as a "magician", "duellist", "tobacco-user", "counterfeiter", and "rakehell". J. A. Downie and Constance Kuriyama have argued against the more lurid speculation, but J. B. Steane remarked, "it seems absurd to dismiss all of these Elizabethan rumours and accusations as 'the Marlowe myth'".
Marlowe is alleged to have been a government spy (Park Honan's 2005 biography even had "Spy" in its title). The author Charles Nicholl speculates this was the case and suggests that Marlowe's recruitment took place when he was at Cambridge. As noted above, in 1587 the Privy Council ordered the University of Cambridge to award Marlowe his degree of Master of Arts, denying rumours that he intended to go to the English Catholic college in Rheims, saying instead that he had been engaged in unspecified "affaires" on "matters touching the benefit of his country". Surviving college records from the period also indicate that Marlowe had had a series of unusually lengthy absences from the university – much longer than permitted by university regulations – that began in the academic year 1584–1585. Surviving college buttery (provisions store) accounts indicate he began spending lavishly on food and drink during the periods he was in attendance – more than he could have afforded on his known scholarship income.[nb 1]
It has sometimes been theorised that Marlowe was the "Morley" who was tutor to Arbella Stuart in 1589. This possibility was first raised in a TLS letter by E. St John Brooks in 1937; in a letter to Notes and Queries, John Baker has added that only Marlowe could be Arbella's tutor due to the absence of any other known "Morley" from the period with an MA and not otherwise occupied. If Marlowe was Arbella's tutor (and some biographers think that the "Morley" in question may have been a brother of the musician Thomas Morley), it might indicate that he was there as a spy, since Arbella, niece of Mary, Queen of Scots, and cousin of James VI of Scotland, later James I of England, was at the time a strong candidate for the succession to Elizabeth's throne. Frederick S. Boas dismisses the possibility of this identification, based on surviving legal records which document his "residence in London between September and December 1589". Marlowe had been party to a fatal quarrel involving his neighbours and the poet Thomas Watson in Norton Folgate, and was held in Newgate Prison for a fortnight. In fact the quarrel and his arrest was on 18 September, he was released on bail on 1 October, and he had to attend court – where he was cleared of any wrongdoing – on 3 December, but there is no record of where he was for the intervening two months.
In 1592 Marlowe was arrested in the town of Flushing (Vlissingen) (then an English garrison town) in the Netherlands for his alleged involvement in the counterfeiting of coins, presumably related to the activities of seditious Catholics. He was sent to be dealt with by the Lord Treasurer (Burghley) but no charge or imprisonment resulted. This arrest may have disrupted another of Marlowe's spying missions, perhaps by giving the resulting coinage to the Catholic cause. He was to infiltrate the followers of the active Catholic plotter William Stanley and report back to Burghley.
Arrest and death
In early May 1593 several bills were posted about London threatening Protestant refugees from France and the Netherlands who had settled in the city. One of these, the "Dutch church libel", written in rhymed iambic pentameter, contained allusions to several of Marlowe's plays and was signed, "Tamburlaine". On 11 May the Privy Council ordered the arrest of those responsible for the libels. The next day, Marlowe's colleague Thomas Kyd was arrested. Kyd's lodgings were searched and a 3-page fragment of a heretical tract was found. In a letter to Sir John Puckering, Kyd asserted that it had belonged to Marlowe, with whom he had been writing "in one chamber" some two years earlier. In a second letter, Kyd described Marlowe as blasphemous, disorderly, holding treasonous opinions, being an irreligious reprobate, and ‘intemperate & of a cruel hart'. At that time they had both been working for an aristocratic patron, probably Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange. A warrant for Marlowe's arrest was issued on 18 May, when the Privy Council apparently knew that he might be found staying with Thomas Walsingham, whose father was a first cousin of the late Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's principal secretary in the 1580s and a man more deeply involved in state espionage than any other member of the Privy Council. Marlowe duly presented himself on 20 May but, there apparently being no Privy Council meeting on that day, was instructed to "give his daily attendance on their Lordships, until he shall be licensed to the contrary". On Wednesday, 30 May, Marlowe was killed.
Various accounts of Marlowe's death were current over the next few years. In his Palladis Tamia, published in 1598, Francis Meres says Marlowe was "stabbed to death by a bawdy serving-man, a rival of his in his lewd love" as punishment for his "epicurism and atheism." In 1917, in the Dictionary of National Biography, Sir Sidney Lee wrote that Marlowe was killed in a drunken fight, and this is still often stated as fact today.
The official account came to light only in 1925 when the scholar Leslie Hotson discovered the coroner's report of the inquest on Marlowe's death, held two days later on Friday 1 June 1593, by the Coroner of the Queen's Household, William Danby. Marlowe had spent all day in a house in Deptford, owned by the widow Eleanor Bull, and together with three men: Ingram Frizer, Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley. All three had been employed by one or other of the Walsinghams. Skeres and Poley had helped snare the conspirators in the Babington plot and Frizer would later describe Thomas Walsingham as his "master" at that time although his role was probably more that of a financial or business agent as he was for Walsingham's wife Audrey a few years later. These witnesses testified that Frizer and Marlowe had argued over payment of the bill (now famously known as the 'Reckoning') exchanging "divers malicious words" while Frizer was sitting at a table between the other two and Marlowe was lying behind him on a couch. Marlowe snatched Frizer's dagger and wounded him on the head. In the ensuing struggle, according to the coroner's report, Marlowe was stabbed above the right eye, killing him instantly. The jury concluded that Frizer acted in self-defence, and within a month he was pardoned. Marlowe was buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard of St. Nicholas, Deptford immediately after the inquest, on 1 June 1593.
The complete text of the inquest report was published by Leslie Hotson in his book, The Death of Christopher Marlowe, in the introduction to which Prof. G. L. Kittredge said "The mystery of Marlowe's death, heretofore involved in a cloud of contradictory gossip and irresponsible guess-work, is now cleared up for good and all on the authority of public records of complete authenticity and gratifying fullness", but this confidence proved fairly short-lived.
Hotson himself had considered the possibility that the witnesses had "concocted a lying account of Marlowe's behaviour, to which they swore at the inquest, and with which they deceived the jury" but came down against that scenario. Others, however, began to suspect that this was indeed the case. Writing to the Times Literary Supplement shortly after the book's publication, Eugénie de Kalb disputed that the struggle and outcome as described were even possible, and Samuel A. Tannenbaum (a graduate of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons) insisted the following year that such a wound could not have possibly resulted in instant death, as had been claimed. Even Marlowe's biographer John Bakeless acknowledged that "some scholars have been inclined to question the truthfulness of the coroner's report. There is something queer about the whole episode" and said that Hotson's discovery "raises almost as many questions as it answers." It has also been discovered more recently that the apparent absence of a local county coroner to accompany the Coroner of the Queen's Household would, if noticed, have made the inquest null and void.
One of the main reasons for doubting the truth of the inquest concerns the reliability of Marlowe's companions as witnesses. As an agent provocateur for the late Sir Francis Walsingham, Robert Poley was a consummate liar, the "very genius of the Elizabethan underworld", and is even on record as saying "I will swear and forswear myself, rather than I will accuse myself to do me any harm." The other witness, Nicholas Skeres, had for many years acted as a confidence trickster, drawing young men into the clutches of people in the money-lending racket, including Marlowe's apparent killer, Ingram Frizer, with whom he was currently engaged in just such a swindle. In other words, despite their being referred to as "generosi" (gentlemen) in the inquest report, they were all professional liars.
Some biographers, such as Kuriyama and Downie, nevertheless take the inquest to be a true account of what occurred, but in trying to explain what really happened if the account was not true, others have come up with a variety of murder theories.
- Jealous of her husband Thomas's relationship with Marlowe, Audrey Walsingham arranged for the playwright to be murdered.
- Sir Walter Raleigh arranged the murder, fearing that under torture Marlowe might incriminate him.
- With Skeres the main player, the murder resulted from attempts by the Earl of Essex to use Marlowe to incriminate Sir Walter Raleigh.
- He was killed on the orders of father and son Lord Burghley and Sir Robert Cecil, who thought that his plays contained Catholic propaganda.
- He was accidentally killed while Frizer and Skeres were pressuring him to pay back money he owed them.
- Marlowe was murdered at the behest of several members of the Privy Council who feared that he might reveal them to be atheists.
- The Queen herself ordered his assassination because of his subversively atheistic behaviour.
- Frizer murdered him because he envied Marlowe's close relationship with his master Thomas Walsingham and feared the effect that Marlowe's behaviour might have on Walsingham's reputation.
- Marlowe's death was faked to save him from trial and execution for subversive atheism.
- Theory that Marlowe didn't die, and went on to write for Shakespeare.
Since there are only written documents on which to base any conclusions, and since it is probable that the most crucial information about his death was never committed to writing at all, it is unlikely that the full circumstances of Marlowe's death will ever be known.
During his lifetime, Marlowe was reputed to be an atheist which, at that time, held the dangerous implication of being an enemy of God and, by association, the state. With the rise of public fears concerning The School of Night, or "School of Atheism" in the late 16th century, accusations of atheism were closely associated with disloyalty to the Protestant monarchy of England.
Some modern historians consider that Marlowe's professed atheism, as with his supposed Catholicism, may have been no more than an elaborate and sustained pretence adopted to further his work as a government spy. Contemporary evidence comes from Marlowe's accuser in Flushing, an informer called Richard Baines. The governor of Flushing had reported that each of the men had "of malice" accused the other of instigating the counterfeiting, and of intending to go over to the Catholic "enemy"; such an action was considered atheistic by the Church of England. Following Marlowe's arrest in 1593, Baines submitted to the authorities a "note containing the opinion of one Christopher Marly concerning his damnable judgment of religion, and scorn of God's word." Baines attributes to Marlowe a total of eighteen items which "scoff at the pretensions of the Old and New Testament" such as, "Christ was a bastard and his mother dishonest [unchaste]", "the woman of Samaria and her sister were whores and that Christ knew them dishonestly", and, "St John the Evangelist was bedfellow to Christ and leaned always in his bosom" (cf. John 13:23–25), and, "that he used him as the sinners of Sodom". He also implies that Marlowe had Catholic sympathies. Other passages are merely skeptical in tone: "he persuades men to atheism, willing them not to be afraid of bugbears and hobgoblins". The final paragraph of Baines's document reads:
These thinges, with many other shall by good & honest witnes be approved to be his opinions and Comon Speeches, and that this Marlowe doth not only hould them himself, but almost into every Company he Cometh he persuades men to Atheism willing them not to be afeard of bugbeares and hobgoblins, and vtterly scorning both god and his ministers as I Richard Baines will Justify & approue both by mine oth and the testimony of many honest men, and almost al men with whome he hath Conversed any time will testify the same, and as I think all men in Cristianity ought to indevor that the mouth of so dangerous a member may be stopped, he saith likewise that he hath quoted a number of Contrarieties oute of the Scripture which he hath giuen to some great men who in Convenient time shalbe named. When these thinges shalbe Called in question the witnes shalbe produced.
Similar examples of Marlowe's statements were given by Thomas Kyd after his imprisonment and possible torture (see above); both Kyd and Baines connect Marlowe with the mathematician Thomas Harriot and Sir Walter Raleigh's circle. Another document claimed at around the same time that "one Marlowe is able to show more sound reasons for Atheism than any divine in England is able to give to prove divinity, and that ... he hath read the Atheist lecture to Sir Walter Raleigh and others."
Some critics believe that Marlowe sought to disseminate these views in his work and that he identified with his rebellious and iconoclastic protagonists. However, plays had to be approved by the Master of the Revels before they could be performed, and the censorship of publications was under the control of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Presumably these authorities did not consider any of Marlowe's works to be unacceptable other than the Amores.
Like William Shakespeare, Marlowe is frequently claimed to have been homosexual. Others argue that the question of whether an Elizabethan was gay or homosexual in a modern sense is anachronistic. For the Elizabethans, what is often today termed homosexual or bisexual was more likely to be recognised as a sexual act, rather than an exclusive sexual orientation and identity. Some scholars argue that the evidence is inconclusive and that the reports of Marlowe's homosexuality may simply be exaggerated rumours produced after his death. Richard Baines reported Marlowe as saying: "All they that love not Tobacco and Boys are fools". David Bevington and Eric Rasmussen describe Baines's evidence as "unreliable testimony" and make the comment: "These and other testimonials need to be discounted for their exaggeration and for their having been produced under legal circumstances we would regard as a witch-hunt". One critic, J.B. Steane, remarked that he considers there to be "no evidence for Marlowe's homosexuality at all." Other scholars, however, point to homosexual themes in Marlowe's writing: in Hero and Leander, Marlowe writes of the male youth Leander, "in his looks were all that men desire" and that when the youth swims to visit Hero at Sestos, the sea god Neptune becomes sexually excited, "[i]magining that Ganymede, displeas'd, [h]ad left the Heavens ... [t]he lusty god embrac'd him, call'd him love ... He watched his arms and, as they opened wide [a]t every stroke, betwixt them would he slide [a]nd steal a kiss, ... And dive into the water, and there pry [u]pon his breast, his thighs, and every limb, ... [a]nd talk of love", while the boy, naive and unaware of Greek love practices, protests, "'You are deceiv'd, I am no woman, I.' Thereat smil'd Neptune." Edward the Second contains the following passage supporting homosexual relationships:
Marlowe wrote the only play about the life of Edward II up to his time, taking the humanist literary discussion of male sexuality much further than his contemporaries. The play was extremely bold, dealing with a star-crossed love story between Edward II and Piers Gaveston. Though it was common practice at the time to reveal characters as gay to give audiences reason to suspect them as culprits of a given crime, Christopher Marlowe's Edward II is portrayed as a sympathetic character.
Reputation among contemporary writers
Whatever the particular focus of modern critics, biographers and novelists, for his contemporaries in the literary world, Marlowe was above all an admired and influential artist. Within weeks of his death, George Peele remembered him as "Marley, the Muses' darling"; Michael Drayton noted that he "Had in him those brave translunary things / That the first poets had", and Ben Jonson wrote of "Marlowe's mighty line". Thomas Nashe wrote warmly of his friend, "poor deceased Kit Marlowe". So too did the publisher Edward Blount, in the dedication of Hero and Leander to Sir Thomas Walsingham.
Among the few contemporary dramatists to say anything negative about Marlowe was the anonymous author of the Cambridge University play The Return From Parnassus (1598) who wrote, "Pity it is that wit so ill should dwell, / Wit lent from heaven, but vices sent from hell."
The most famous tribute to Marlowe was paid by Shakespeare in As You Like It, where he not only quotes a line from Hero and Leander ("Dead Shepherd, now I find thy saw of might, 'Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?'") but also gives to the clown Touchstone the words "When a man's verses cannot be understood, nor a man's good wit seconded with the forward child, understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room." This appears to be a reference to Marlowe's murder which involved a fight over the "reckoning", the bill, as well as to a line in Marlowe's Jew of Malta – "Infinite riches in a little room".
Shakespeare was heavily influenced by Marlowe in his work, as can be seen in the re-using of Marlovian themes in Antony and Cleopatra, The Merchant of Venice, Richard II, and Macbeth (Dido, Jew of Malta, Edward II and Doctor Faustus, respectively). In Hamlet, after meeting with the travelling actors, Hamlet requests the Player perform a speech about the Trojan War, which at 2.2.429–32 has an echo of Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage. In Love's Labour's Lost Shakespeare brings on a character "Marcade" (three syllables) in conscious acknowledgement of Marlowe's character "Mercury", also attending the King of Navarre, in Massacre at Paris. The significance, to those of Shakespeare's audience who had read Hero and Leander, was Marlowe's identification of himself with the god Mercury.
A theory has arisen centered on the notion that Marlowe may have faked his death and then continued to write under the assumed name of William Shakespeare. However, orthodox academic consensus rejects alternative candidates for authorship, including Marlowe.
In July 2002, a memorial window to Marlowe – a gift of the Marlowe Society – was unveiled in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. Controversially, a question mark was added to the generally accepted date of death. On 25 October 2011 a letter from Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells was published by The Times newspaper, in which they called on the Dean and Chapter to remove the question mark on the grounds that it "flew in the face of a mass of unimpugnable evidence". In 2012, they renewed this call in their e-book Shakespeare Bites Back, adding that it "denies history", and again the following year in their book Shakespeare Beyond Doubt.
Fictional works about Marlowe
- Wilbur G. Zeigler's novel It was Marlowe (1895) was the first book to argue that Marlowe's death was faked—apparently in support of Zeigler's claim that Marlowe was the actual author of Hamlet, which was written after Marlowe's recorded death.
- Herbert Lom's Enter a Spy: The Double Life of Christopher Marlowe (1978), a historical novel.
- Philip Lindsay's One Dagger For Two (1932), novel which claims that Marlowe was stabbed in a dispute over a woman.
- Leo Rost's Marlowe (1981), was an American rock musical staged on Broadway.
- Peter Whelan's play The School of Night (1992), about Marlowe's links to the freethinking "school of night" and the young Shakespeare, was performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon.
- Anthony Burgess's A Dead Man in Deptford (1993), an imaginative treatment of Marlowe's death, was the last of Burgess's novels to be published in his lifetime.
- Marlowe appears in Harry Turtledove's Ruled Britannia (2002), an alternate history depicting an England where the Spanish Armada was successful in 1588 and imposed the rule of King Philip II of Spain. In this depiction, Marlowe is still alive in 1598 and is active among conspirators seeking to overthrow Spanish rule and restore the imprisoned Queen Elizabeth. This involvement leads to Marlowe being killed, five years later than in actual history, and he does not live to see the success of the rebellion he helped foment.
- Louise Welsh's 2004 novel Tamburlaine Must Die about Marlowe's last days was chosen as a BBC Radio 4 "Book at Bedtime" in April 2006.
- The 2010 Dr Who audio play Point of Entry starring Colin Baker has Marlowe haunted by a demon seeking an Aztec dagger.
- Marlowe plays a major role in Elizabeth Bear's Promethean Age Series (2006-2013), which combines elements of secret history and fantasy. Among other things, in this account Marlowe and Shakespeare had a secret, deeply emotional homosexual love affair and many of Shakespeare's Sonnets were written to express his love for Marlowe. Also, as depicted in the Promethean Age series, Christopher Marlowe was not assassinated in 1593 as history records but was taken into Faerie where he became the lover of the witch Morgan le Fay.
- The Christopher Marlowe Mysteries was a 4-episode BBC Radio 4 series, first broadcast in 2007.
- Michael Butt's radio play, The Killing, was performed as "Afternoon Drama" on BBC Radio 4 in August 2010.
- D. Lawrence-Young's novel Marlowe: "Soul'd to the Devil" (2010) is close to a biography of Marlowe's life.
- In Ros Barber's verse novel The Marlowe Papers (2012), Marlowe looks back on his past and faked death and his writing of the plays attributed to William Shakespeare. It was winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize and joint winner of the Authors' Club First Novel Award for 2013.
- M. J. Trow's The Kit Marlowe Series (2011 - ), in which Marlowe is depicted as a detective and spy for Sir Francis Walsingham
- Ellen Wilson's novel, In the Shadow of Shakespeare (2013), mixing historical fiction, romance, and science fiction, the heroine, Alice, travels back in time and meets Christopher Marlowe.
- John Hurt in Jim Jarmusch's "Only Lovers Left Alive" (2014)
- Marlowe is a character in the 2015 film Bill.
- Marlowe (played by Jamie Campbell-Bower) is a main character in the 2017 TNT series Will.
- Michelle Butler Hallett's This Marlowe (2016) explores the relationship between Kyd and Marlowe, and gives an account of Kyd's interrogation and the murder of Marlowe.
- Marlowe (played by Tim Downie) is a main character in the BBC 2 sitcom Upstart Crow. The series makes a recurring joke on the Marlovian theory of Shakespeare authorship, making Shakespeare the actual author of some of Marlowe's plays.
The dates of composition are approximate.
- Dido, Queen of Carthage (c. 1586) (possibly co-written with Thomas Nashe)
- Tamburlaine the Great, part 1 (c. 1587), part 2 (c. 1587–1588)
- The Jew of Malta (c. 1589)
- The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (c. 1589, or, c. 1593)
- Edward II (c. 1592)
- The Massacre at Paris (c. 1593)
The play Lust's Dominion was attributed to Marlowe upon its initial publication in 1657, though scholars and critics have almost unanimously rejected the attribution. He may also have written or co-written Arden of Faversham.
- Translation of Book One of Lucan's Pharsalia (date unknown)
- Translation of Ovid's Amores (c. 1580s?)
- The Passionate Shepherd to His Love (pre-1593)
- Hero and Leander (c. 1593, unfinished; completed by George Chapman, 1598)
- It is known that some poorer students worked as labourers on the Corpus Christi College chapel, then under construction, and were paid by the college with extra food. It has been suggested this may be the reason for the sums noted in Marlowe's entry in the buttery accounts.
- "Christopher Marlowe was baptised as 'Marlow,' but he spelled his name 'Marley' in his one known surviving signature." David Kathman. "The Spelling and Pronunciation of Shakespeare's Name: Pronunciation."
- Robert A. Logan, Shakespeare's Marlowe (2007) p.4. "During Marlowe's lifetime, the popularity of his plays, Robert Greene's ... remarks ... including the designation "famous", and the many imitations of Tamburlaine suggest that he was for a brief time considered England's foremost dramatist."
- Nicholl, Charles (2006). "By my onely meanes sett downe: The Texts of Marlow's Atheism", in Kozuka, Takashi and Mulryne, J.R. Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson: New Directions in Biography. Ashgate Publishing, p. 153.
- "Marlowe, Christopher (MRLW580C)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- For a full transcript, see Peter Farey's Marlowe page (Retrieved 30 April 2015).
- He died in a deadly brawl.Hutchinson, Robert (2006). Elizabeth's Spy Master: Francis Walsingham and the Secret War that Saved England. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 111. ISBN 0-297-84613-2.
- "See especially the middle section in which the author shows how another Cambridge graduate, Thomas Preston makes his title character express his love in a popular play written around 1560 and compares that "clumsy" line with Doctor Faustus addressing Helen of Troy". Wwnorton.com. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
- Deats, Sarah Munson (2004). "'Dido Queen of Carthage' and 'The Massacre at Paris'". In Cheney, Patrick. The Cambridge Companion to Christopher Marlowe. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. p. 193. ISBN 0-521-82034-0.
- Wilson, Richard (2004). "Tragedy, Patronage and Power". in Cheney, Patrick, 2007, p. 207
- Nicholl, Charles (1992). "Libels and Heresies". The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe. London: Jonathan Cape. p. 41. ISBN 0-224-03100-7.
- Hoenselaars, A. J. (1992). "Englishmen abroad 1558–1603". Images of Englishmen and Foreigners in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries. Madison, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. pp. 78–79. ISBN 0-8386-3431-1.
- This was the title of the (B text) edition published in 1616. The earlier (A text) edition of 1604 simply had The Tragicall History of D. Faustus.
- Shea, Christopher D. (October 24, 2016). "New Oxford Shakespeare Edition Credits Christopher Marlowe as a Co-author". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
- "Christopher Marlowe credited as Shakespeare's co-writer". BBC. October 24, 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
- J. A. Downie in his and J. T. Parnell's Constructing Christopher Marlowe (2000) and Constance Kuriyama in her Christopher Marlowe: A Renaissance Life (2002).
- Steane, J. B. (1969). Introduction to Christopher Marlowe: The Complete Plays. Aylesbury, UK: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-043037-7.
- Park Honan, Christopher Marlowe: Poet and Spy, 2005.
- This is from a document dated 29 June 1587, from the National Archives – Acts of Privy Council.
- Nicholl, Charles (1992). "12". The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-03100-7.
- David Riggs (2004). The World of Christopher Marlowe. Faber. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-571-22159-2.
- He was described by Arbella's guardian, the Countess of Shrewsbury, as having hoped for an annuity of some £40 from Arbella, his being "so much damnified (i.e. having lost this much) by leaving the University.": BL Lansdowne MS. 71, f.3.and Charles Nicholl, The Reckoning (1992), pp. 340–2.
- John Baker, letter to Notes and Queries 44.3 (1997), pp. 367–8
- Constance Kuriyama, Christopher Marlowe: A Renaissance Life (2002), p. 89. Also in Handover's biography of Arbella, and Nicholl, The Reckoning, p. 342.
- Elizabeth I and James VI and I, History in Focus.
- Frederick S. Boas, Christopher Marlowe: A biographical and critical study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1953), pp. 101ff.
- Constance Kuriyama, Christopher Marlowe: A Renaissance Life (2002), p. xvi.
- For a full transcript, see Peter Farey's Marlowe page (Retrieved 30 April 2015).
- Nicholl (1992: 246–248)
- For a full transcript, see Peter Farey's Marlowe page (Retrieved 31 March 2012).
- J. R. Mulryne states in his ODNB article that the document was identified in the 20th century as transcripts from John Proctour's The Fall of the Late Arian (1549).
- For a full transcript of Kyd's letter, see Peter Farey's Marlowe page (Retrieved 30 April 2015).
- Mulryne, J. H. "Thomas Kyd." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
- Haynes, Alan. The Elizabethan Secret Service. London: Sutton, 2005.
- National Archives, Acts of the Privy Council. Meetings of the Privy Council, including details of those attending, are recorded and minuted for 16, 23, 25, 29 and the morning of 31 May, all of them taking place in the Star Chamber at Westminster. There is no record of any meeting on either 18 or 20 May, however, just a note of the warrant being issued on 18 May and the fact that Marlowe "entered his appearance for his indemnity therein" on the 20th.
- Palladis Tamia. London, 1598: 286v-287r.
- For a full transcript, see Peter Farey's Marlowe page (Retrieved 30 April 215).
- Leslie Hotson, The Death of Christopher Marlowe (1925) p.65
- Park Honan, Christopher Marlowe: Poet and Spy (2005) p.325
- Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Location 30125). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition
- Hotson (1925) pp.39–40
- de Kalb, Eugénie (May 1925). "The Death of Marlowe", in The Times Literary Supplement
- Tannenbaum, Samuel (1926). The Assassination of Christopher Marlowe, New York, pp.41–42
- Bakeless, John (1942). The Tragicall History of Christopher Marlowe, p.182
- Honan (2005), p.354
- Nicholl, Charles (2004). "Marlowe, Christopher", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press. online edn, January 2008, accessed 24 August 2013. "The authenticity of the inquest is not in doubt, but whether it tells the full truth is another matter. The nature of Marlowe's companions raises questions about their reliability as witnesses."
- Boas (1953), p.293
- Nicholl (2002), p.38
- Nicholl (2002), pp.29–30
- Kuriyama (2002), p.136
- Downie, J. A. "Marlowe, facts and fictions", in Downie, J. A. & Parnell, J. T. (2000). Constructing Christopher Marlowe, pp.26–27
- de Kalb (1925)
- Tannenbaum (1926)
- Nicholl (2002), p.415
- Breight, Curtis C. (1996). Surveillance, Militarism and Drama in the Elizabethan Era, p.114
- Hammer, Paul E. J. (1996) "A Reckoning Reframed: the 'Murder' of Christopher Marlowe Revisited", in English Literary Renaissance, pp.225–242
- Trow, M. J. (2001). Who Killed Kit Marlowe? A contract to murder in Elizabethan England, p.250
- Riggs, David (2004). The World of Christopher Marlowe, pp.334–7
- Honan (2005), p.348
- Honan (2005), p.355. "Useful research has been stimulated by the infinitesimally thin possibility that Marlowe did not die when we think he did. ... History holds its doors open."
- Stanley, Thomas (1687). The History of Philosophy 1655–61. quoted in Oxford English Dictionary.
- Riggs, David (5 January 2005). The World of Christopher Marlowe (1 ed.). Henry Holt and Co. p. 294. ISBN 0805077553. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
- Riggs, David (2004). Cheney, Patrick, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Christopher Marlowe. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. p. 38. ISBN 0-521-52734-1.
- For a full transcript, see Peter Farey's Marlowe page (Retrieved 30 April 2012).
- "The 'Baines Note'". Retrieved 30 April 2015.
- The so-called 'Remembrances' against Richard Cholmeley. For a full transcript, see Peter Farey's Marlowe page. (Retrieved 30 April 2015)
- Waith, Eugene. The Herculean Hero in Marlowe, Chapman, Shakespeare, and Dryden. Chatto and Windus, London, 1962. The idea is commonplace, though by no means universally accepted.
- Smith, Bruce R. (March 1995). Homosexual desire in Shakespeare's England. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. p. 74. ISBN 0-226-76366-8.
- Doctor Faustus and Other Plays, pp. viii–ix
- White, Paul Whitfield, ed. (1998). Marlowe, History and Sexuality: New Critical Essays on Christopher Marlowe. New York: AMS Press.
- Hero and Leander, 88 (see Project Gutenberg).
- Hero and Leander, 157–192.
- Hero and Leander, 192–193.
- Simon Barker, Hilary Hinds (2003). The Routledge Anthology of Renaissance Drama. Routledge. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
- Marlowe, Christopher; Forker, Charles R. (15 October 1995). Edward the Second. Manchester University Press. ISBN 9780719030895.
- Wilson, Richard (2008). "Worthies away: the scene begins to cloud in Shakespeare's Navarre". In Mayer, Jean-Christophe. Representing France and the French in early modern English drama. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press. pp. 95–97. ISBN 0-87413-000-X.
- Kathman, David (2003), "The Question of Authorship", in Wells, Stanley; Orlin, Lena C., Shakespeare: an Oxford Guide, Oxford University Press, pp. 620–32, ISBN 978-0-19-924522-2
- Rogers, Frederick (1913). Labour, Life and Literature. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 160–167.
- Christopher Marlowe – Westminster Abbey
- Nigel Reynolds (11 July 2002). "Marlowe tribute puts question mark over Shakespeare". The Telegraph.
- Edmondson 2013, p. 278.
- Shakespeare Bites Back – free book pp. 21, 22 & 38.
- Edmondson 2013, p. 234.
- Nicholl, Charles (2006). "The case for Marlowe", in Wells, Stanley and Edmondson, Paul (eds.) Shakespeare Beyond Doubt. Cambridge University Press, pp.30–32
- Tamburlaine Must Die
- Monette, Sarah. "An Interview with Elizabeth Bear, conducted by Sarah Monette". Subterranean Press. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
- The Christopher Marlowe Mysteries at BBC
- The Killing.
- "This Marlowe". Toronto Star. March 26, 2016. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
- Bevington, David and Eric Rasmussen, Doctor Faustus and Other Plays, OUP, 1998; ISBN 0-19-283445-2
- Brooke, C.F. Tucker. The Life of Marlowe and "The Tragedy of Dido, Queen of Carthage." London: Methuen, 1930. (pp. 107, 114, 99, 98)
- Cornelius, R. M. Christopher Marlowe's Use of the Bible. New York : P. Lang, 1984.
- Downie, J. A. and J. T. Parnell, eds., Constructing Christopher Marlowe, Cambridge 2000. ISBN 0-521-57255-X
- Honan, Park. Christopher Marlowe Poet and Spy. Oxford University Press, 2005 ISBN 0-19-818695-9
- Kuriyama, Constance. Christopher Marlowe: A Renaissance Life. Cornell University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8014-3978-7
- Logan, Robert A. Shakespeare's Marlowe: The Influence of Christopher Marlowe on Shakespeare's Artistry. Aldershot, Hants: Ashgate, 2007. ISBN 9780754657637
- Marlowe, Christopher. Complete Works. Vol. 3: Edward II., ed. R. Rowland. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994. (pp. xxii–xxiii)
- Nicholl, Charles. The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe, Vintage, 2002 (revised edition) ISBN 0-09-943747-3
- Oz, Avraham, ed. "Marlowe: New Casebook", Houndmills, Basingstoke and London: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2003 ISBN 9780333624982
- Parker, John. The Aesthetics of Antichrist: From Christian Drama to Christopher Marlowe. Cornell University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-8014-4519-4
- Riggs, David. "The World of Christopher Marlowe", Henry Holt and Co., 2005 ISBN 0-8050-8036-8
- Shepard, Alan. "Marlowe's Soldiers: Rhetorics of Masculinity in the Age of the Armada", Ashgate, 2002. ISBN 0-7546-0229-X
- Sim, James H. Dramatic Uses of Biblical Allusions in Marlowe and Shakespeare, Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1966.
- Trow, M. J. Who Killed Kit Marlowe?, Sutton, 2002; ISBN 0-7509-2963-4
- Wraight, A.D. and Virginia F. Stern, In Search of Christopher Marlowe: A Pictorial Biography, Macdonald, London 1965
- The Marlowe Society
- The works of Marlowe at Perseus Project
- The complete works, with modernised spelling, on Peter Farey's Marlowe page.
- BBC audio file. In Our Time Radio 4 discussion programme on Marlowe and his work
- Works by Christopher Marlowe at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Christopher Marlowe at Internet Archive
- Works by Christopher Marlowe at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
- The Marlowe Studies an online library of books claiming that Marlowe was Shakespeare
- The Marlowe Bibliography Online is an initiative of the Marlowe Society of America and the University of Melbourne. Its purpose is to facilitate scholarship on the works of Christopher Marlowe by providing a searchable annotated bibliography of relevant scholarship.
- "Marlowe, Christopher (bap. 1564, d. 1593)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- "Archival material relating to Christopher Marlowe". UK National Archives.